Driving in the UK has changed a great deal over the decades, with more traffic, new motoring legislation and the emergence of various questionable 'habits' – from road-rage to middle-lane-hogging.

With so much having changed, it's somewhat surprising that before its time to renew our licence at the age of 70, we will never have been obligated to retrain or learn new driving skills. For many, this could mean more than 50 years on the road without brushing up on their driving abilities.

But for those who want to ensure their motoring skills are top-notch, an advanced driving course could be the answer.

What's the motivation?

While safer, smoother, more efficient driving should arguably be the main motivation for signing up for such courses, they are often undertaken because they could save money on car insurance.

However, it's important to note that not all insurers take advanced driving courses into account when calculating their premiums. Additionally, the cost of a course could easily be more than any immediate insurance savings. Over time, however, the cost of the course may be covered by premium savings.

Be aware, too, that your insurer will want to see evidence of any advanced driving course, which will add to the time and trouble it takes to get insured.

Is saving on your insurance premium a prime motivation? Then it's wise to ask your insurer if they take such courses into account before you sign up for one.

Other good reasons to consider an advanced driving course:
  • Better driving skills should mean it's easier to stay safe on the road – and keep your no claims bonus intact
  • More efficient driving will mean lower fuel costs, as well as environmental benefits
  • Smoother braking
  • Your tyres will last longer
  • You'll be able to cope better with the challenges of driving
  • You'll be better able to read the road ahead

Not all insurers are convinced about advanced driving courses: why?

As far as some insurers are concerned, there is a lack of solid evidence that advanced driving courses make people safer drivers. And even if an insurer does take such training into account, it will pale in significance next to other factors such as: where you live; where your car is parked overnight; your profession – and much else besides.

What types of courses are available?
Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM)

Since 1956 IAM has dominated the advanced driving course arena, having provided post-test training under various names. These tests have evolved into the organisation's current Skills for Life programme and Advanced Driver test.

The IAM training includes a year's membership to the organisation; all instruction matter; observed drives; and finally your test – which will last 90 minutes.

Based on a system of car control developed by the police, the course focuses on maintaining a defensive driving position at all times in relation other road users and road furniture, while being able to spot hazards ahead – in some cases before they are even in view.

This in-depth training should enable drivers to spot issues well ahead of time – a fact which has contributed to the incorrect notion that IAM drivers are somehow instilled with fundamentally quicker reactions.

Correct gear usage based on given situations, more efficient fuel consumption and smoother use of brakes are among the other focuses of the course.

The IAM course is no cake-walk: it is recommended that you have driven at least 10,000 miles before you attempt it.

How much is an IAM course?

Courses range from £49 up to £399.


Pass Plus

Far newer than IAM, Pass Plus was introduced in 1995 by the Driving Standards Agency, designed to improve the confidence and skills of newly passed drivers – and to make an accident less likely.

Statistics on young or recently-passed drivers speak for themselves: for example, one in four 18-24 year olds (23%) crash within two years of passing their test..*

While Pass Plus if often touted as a way to reduce your insurance premium, most insurers no longer recognise it.

But while Pass Plus might not even dent your insurance outgoings, it may well make you a more assured driver in the following settings and situations:

  • Towns
  • Various weather conditions
  • Night conditions
  • Rural roads
  • Dual carriageways
  • Motorways

Like IAM, Pass Plus should help you read the road ahead more effectively and minimise the risk of an accident.

How much is a Pass Plus course?

Usually between £150-£200.

Becoming a better, safer driver

While the jury may be out on how an advanced driving course may impact your car insurance premium, there is doubtless merit in aiming to become a safer, more skilled driver. There are tangible benefits in relation to road safety, fuel costs and the environment – among many others.

*Statistic according to Brake, the road safety charity